Police in South Korea track 900 defectors from the North
Police stepping up action after speculation that defector who returned to North Korea was kidnapped
By Kim Se-jeong
In the wake of a famous North Korean defector’s return home, police are tracking down 900 defectors whose whereabouts in Korea are unclear.
The National Policy Agency said it instructed intelligence officers to step up their efforts to prevent defectors from going back.
More than 30,000 from the North are currently living in the South.
On July 9, Im Ji-hyun, a defector who was well-known in the South, appeared in a propaganda video on Uriminzokkiri, a North Korean website, claiming she was back home after an inhumane life in the South that was mired by materialism.
“I wanted to make money and worked hard at bars in the South,” she said in the video. “But in South Korea, money was everything and that took a heavy mental and physical toll on my well-being.”
The police are investigating motives for her re-entry to the North. While some claimed the North Korean regime might have kidnapped her from China, others alleged she was a North Korean spy.
Back in South Korea, Im appeared regularly in a cable television show.
Im’s incident raised a red flag above the police agency’s defector monitoring programme.
Arriving in the South, defectors are sent to Hanawon, an adjustment training facility.
After leaving such facilities, defectors are paired with police officers who look after and monitor them. But in reality, communication is rare unless the defector had a good background in the North or is famous. The police’s intelligence unit has limited resources, and so monitors defectors selectively.
Im isn’t the only defector to have returned home. Authorities said 25 have done so since December 2011 when Kim Jong-un gripped power.
Some argued the dictator Kim is using returned defectors to create chaos in the South, using deception to lure defectors back to the North, if necessary.
A case in point is Kang, a man whose full name was not disclosed. He first defected to the South in March 2015. He went back to the North with the assistance of the North Korean regime last year. He afterwards appeared on television, slamming the South and glorifying the North. However, he arrived back in the South in May. Kang is currently in police custody and under interrogation. In South Korea, visiting North Korea is a crime.